surface warfare officer

Those were the days….

SOUTH CHINA SEA (April 12, 2017) U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Midshipman Robbie Hazen, temporarily assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63), uses a pelorus as part of navigational training on the bridge.

                                           USS Stethem (DDG 63)

                                            *          *          *          *

The moment I saw this photo, a torrent of great old memories came flooding into my consciousness….for a good reminiscing session inside my head!

This was me 40 years ago….spending every waking moment working, studying, practicing….as I learned the art of seamanship, the art of leadership, and the qualities necessary for one to succeed as a Surface Warfare Officer in the United States Navy.

Those were days to always remember!


>>Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Harper, USN

Navyspeak 101

Understanding Navyspeak is hard.  Writing it is even harder.  One of the novels I’m working on is set in a navy-heavy World War III, and I sometimes find myself having to translate things into Navyspeak.  I spent 10+ years in this life, and if I’m having to do that, I can only imagine how weird our “language” might seem to an outsider!

So, here’s a list of things that Sailors call Sailors.   We’re not generally very polite people, Sailors.  And we call one another all kinds of nicknames - although most of them are in good humor.  Some of them are even affectionate, though you’ll be hard pressed to get a sailor to admit to that.

The terms on this list are predominately from the US Navy, but I do think some of them are universal, at least in English-speaking navies.

Things Sailors call Each Other (and Themselves)

“Knuckledragger”: someone who does more manual labor than “smart” work, such as a boatswain’s mate or a machinist’s mate.  Generally derogatory.

“Blueshirt”: an Enlisted Sailor E-6 and below.  Named for the blue shirts on the dungaree uniform.

“Khaki”: an Officer or Chief Petty Officer (E-7 and above)

“Bubblehead”: What other people call submariners.  

“Brown shoe”: how surface and sub sailors refer to aviators and those who work in aviation.  

“Black shoe” is how aviators refer to Surface Warfare Officers and Chief Petty Officers.  Often just said as “Shoe”.

“Skimmer”: how sub sailors refer to surface sailors.

“Guns”: A nickname for a Gunner’s Mate.

“Wheels”: nickname for a Quartermaster

“Boats”: nickname for a Boatswain’s Mate.

“Weather Guessers”: nickname for Aerographers Mate, aka meteorology

“Doc”: nickname for a corpsman, who enlisted, not an actual doctor.

“Baby Doc”: nickname for junior corpsmen

“Turd Chaser”: nickname for Hull Technicians, who also own/fix the sewage (CHT) system on board.

“Sparky”: nickname for Electrician’s Mates (I haven’t seen this used in years).

“A-Ganger”: Someone who works in the Auxiliary Division. Often Enginemen, sometimes Machinists’ Mates.

“Cranks”: Nowadays, properly known as FSAs, or Food Service Attendants.  These are (usually) new Sailors who are taking their turn helping out in the galley with food preparation and serving.

“Chop”: Supply Officers

“Rotorhead”: Helicopter pilots.

“Aredales”: Aviators

“Spooks”: Intelligence types

“Coastie”: Coast Guard sailors.  Not usually meant in a mean way.

“Nukes”: Nuclear power types (officers and enlisted both)

“Liberty Hound”: Someone who can’t wait to go on liberty, or leave work at the end of the day.

“Rack Monster”: Someone who spends a lot of time in their rack (bunk).  Related is the “Horizontal Deployment Accelerator”, which is your rack.

“Sea Lawyer”: Someone who always tries to find a loophole in the regulations to get away with something.

“Yardbird”: a shipyard worker.  These days, they’re usually civilians.

“Gator Sailors”: Sailors on Amphibious warships

“Shellback”: Someone who has crossed “the line”, aka the equator

“Golden Shellback”: Someone who has crossed the equator at the 180thmeridian.

“Wog” or “Slimy Wog”: Someone who has not crossed the equator.  Also known as a “Pollywog”.

“Snipe”: an engineer

“Snake Eater”: special forces

“Deployment boyfriend/girlfriend”: A shipboard romance that’s only going to last the 6-8 months of deployment.  These relationships are often “friends with benefits” or end in really ugly ways.

“Oscar”: man overboard – hopefully a dummy and not a real person.

“Dad”:  The Captain, or Commanding Officer (CO).  Generally not to his/her face.  

“Mom”: The Executive Officer (XO), or second-in-command. Definitely not to his/her face.

“Shit Screen”: Someone (usually senior) who is screening everyone else from the fallout of some mess or a superior officer’s ire.

“Sea Daddy” or “Sea Mommy”: A senior officer or senior enlisted who is shepherding someone’s career along and looking out for them.  

“Seaman Schmuckatelli” or sometimes “Seaman Timmy”: Your generic example of a usually assed up Sailor.

“Shipmate”: Not a good thing to call someone. This is usually used sarcastically, such as “Hey, Shipmate” to point out someone has screwed up or is otherwise worthless.


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Sail the seas with ScriptSailor!

Hello everyone!  I was previously one of the Navy Mods (LT Robin4) over on @scriptsoldier, but we’ve decided to split out a ScriptSailor blog since we got so many Navy questions.

I am a 10+ year veteran of the U.S. Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer.  The bulk of my knowledge is on surface ships, so I may reach out for help on non-surface questions (particularly for our aviation brethren - I can speak helo fairly well, but you fixed wing guys are a mystery to me!).  You can read all about me on my About Me page if you want more details.  

I’m also an amateur writer, currently working on two novels, including a Navy-based WWIII future novel that I hope to get published after I get off my butt and edit it.  I’m blunt and I’m outspoken, and I’ll try not to sound too much like the proverbial Sailor in my posts.

So, batteries release!  (Or, in normal speak, the ask box is open.)

Running one of the most advanced Navy Fleets in the world requires an Officer who has the extensive training to maintain and operate these ships, their crews and their internal systems.

Organization, leadership and decisiveness are the qualities we seek in our Surface Warfare Officers. Natural-born leaders, we are waiting for you here.

Recently, I received one of the oddest Tumblr Anonymous messages I’ve received in a while. It wasn’t necessarily brutal, nor was it anything I haven’t heard in varying forms before, but it said: “Okay. You’ve had your 15 minutes of fame. Time to give up the crusade and return to the real world.”

And I wasn’t going to say anything about it, right? It was anonymous - the person wasn’t even brave enough to show me any identity, just some random troll. No big deal. I’ve heard worse. But then some things happened today and I want to talk about it.

I sat in the back of a room of people at a conference, and once I looked around, I saw more than a handful of individuals in uniform. The panel was “Opportunity and Diversity in the US Armed Forces” and they were, when I walked in, talking about transgender service - on how to be a fully inclusive military. There were two JAG Officers speaking - a Navy Lieutenant Commander and an Air Force Captain, a former Army medic who now does big time EEOC work in the civilian side, and a former Naval Surface Warfare Officer who now does both nursing and practices law (and happens to be transgender).

I braced myself, knowing that for the first time since March, I was surrounded by military individuals who probably have seen their fair share of transgender service members files…but the conversation was positive. It was “How can we get this changed? What can we do to help our military? How do we make this a safer place for our soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen?”


I say all of this in response to the above ignorance because this isn’t my crusade. Would it be easier if it were just me striking out alone and I was the only person who cared about this issue? In some ways, yeah. Because then I would know there weren’t hundreds of thousands of transgender veterans who feel the same way I do right now. I would know that there aren’t 15,000 actively serving transgender service members who feel the same way I felt. But mostly, I am thrilled I’m not the only one because this is an issue that requires all hands on deck to get it changed. This is an issue that requires people to get angry. To get emotional. To get all sorts of fired up about it.

And we do.

There are definitely days where it gets hard. It gets damn hard to have to rehash this experience over and over and over again. It gets hard sometimes to even be reminded that I’m transgender. To be reminded that because I am transgender, it cost me everything I had worked for. Sometimes, I forget why I do this at all.

And then a Surface Warfare Officer who left the service long before her time should have been up, to begin to truly pursue the meaning of the values we still live by - honor, courage, and commitment - gives me her Officer’s crest.

And I am reminded of why I do this.

The military trains us to fight - all different kinds of battles…and crusades, if you will.

You damn well better believe we’re going to do what we were trained to do.